“If you treated a Spitfire properly, it treated you properly. Treat it roughly or be careless with it and you were in trouble, in that it would do all sorts of things such as ground looping. It also had a very fragile undercarriage and could collapse.”
— Hank Costain, Wing Commander, Spitfire pilot
Speed – With a top speed of over 400 mph, the Spitfire Mk.IXc is among the fastest planes available in 1942.
Firepower – Its four 20mm Hispano cannon can deal with tanks and planes with equal efficiency.
Durability – The Spitfire was a small machine and not capable of absorbing a great amount of damage.
In late 1941 the Focke-Wulf FW-190 started showing up in service with the Channel Coast Jagdgruppen and suddenly the Spitfire Mk.V was again outclassed by the competition. Something needed to be done fast to rectify the situation.
Making drastic changes to the Mk.V would take too long, so the solution was to simply install a more powerful version of the Rolls-Royce Merlin, the Merlin 61 rated for 1,565 hp at sea level, in the Mk.V airframe. The resulting Mk.IX would be considered by many to be the finest Spitfire “Mark” produced during the war.
The first versions of the Mk.IX were fitted with the “C” wing, equipped with four 20mm Hispano cannon, though often times this was reduced to two cannon to save weight. Additionally, this version was able to carry a 500 lb. bomb under the fuselage and a pair of 250 lb. bombs under the wings for ground attack duties. Although it was considered an interim or “stop-gap” type, the Mk.IX was produced in quantities second only to the Mk.V, with total production reaching 5,609 machines.